I’ve seen countless adaptations of Romeo & Juliet, including the gorgeous Baz Lurhmann film with Leonardo diCaprio and Claire Danes. But I wasn’t sure what to expect for the National Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet, reworked for younger viewers.
The story is transposed to a modern urban setting, with love across the boundaries portrayed by an African Caribbean family as the Montagues and an Asian family as the Capulets.
In case you don’t know (ha), Romeo & Juliet tells the timeless and tragic tale of ‘star-cross’d lovers’ from opposing clans. Juliet and her Romeo’s brief but tender affair has captivated audiences since the Elizabethan era.
Shakespeare’s drama is pretty heavy thematically and I was curious about how they would translate the romance, and occasional gore, for kids in the audience. The production makes smart use of props (e.g. scattering rose petals as spilled blood) and the Bollywood style colours, charismatic players and fight choreography certainly held my 8-year-old’s attention.
The chemistry between the two leads is convincing (I’m sure Ezra was blushing when they kissed). And I especially enjoyed Bunmi Mojekwu (of Eastenders fame) playing Friar Laurence with a Nigerian accent!
They’ve condensed the text but kept much of Shakespeare’s poetry and while the play suffers a little on emotional impact, it’s still quite touching. But I was glad I didn’t have to carry my boy out sobbing at the end!
In fact, most of the audience left grinning – a testament to how much we enjoyed this fun and funky version of Shakespeare’s ‘tale of woe’.
Ezra’s Review (age 8)
‘Romeo & Juliet was good, some of it I didn’t understand because I normally don’t understand Shakespeare, but I understood a bit of it. It was a nice story even though I’m not used to watching shows which are about love. At the end I felt both sad and happy: sad because they died, but happy because it was a good ending because they weren’t just dead, it showed memories of the happy times that they had. I found it funny that they sang Happy too!’
Romeo & Juliet is at National Theatre, South Bank, SE1 9PX (Waterloo/Embankment tube). 10.30am-1.30pm (Mon-Fri), £8-£12. Running time is 60 minutes without an interval. (until Nov 14)
The show will also tour primary schools in London through Autumn term for Years 4, 5 and 6. Find out more at Primary Theatre: Romeo & Juliet